Contributed by Canyon Ranch
You’re barreling down a steep curve on a roller coaster, watching that video with the talking dog yet again, or reminding your college roommate about the crazy night you’ll never forget. And it starts. That smile you can’t contain, the rising chuckle. Now it’s unstoppable – the breathless, can’t-hold-it-in laughter that lifts you out of whatever you might be stressing over and lands you right where you should be – in the moment.
“That’s how it works,” says Jeffrey Rossman, PhD, Director of Life Management at Canyon Ranch Lenox, “irrespective of what you’re laughing about. It’s a letting go, a release of tension that changes your brain chemistry.
“It’s about seeing things in a different light – the surprise of a punchline or the scary-safe feeling of a roller coaster. We get out of a rut and see ourselves differently, too.”
Laughter may actually be the most immediate and successful stress reliever of all. The release of dopamine and endorphins lifts the spirits, and sharing laughter with others builds a sense of comfort and connection. Plus, it’s infectious.
“Think about watching a funny movie alone at home,” Jeff says, “versus seeing it at the movies. People want to laugh together.”
Jeff points to the rise in popularity of laughter clubs and Laughter Yoga, in which people gather for no other reason than to laugh. They don’t tell jokes or pull pranks, either. The act of laughing is contagious and uplifting in itself.
Too busy to laugh?
“There are people who feel so fully occupied or pressured to be productive that they don’t allow much laughter in their lives,” Jeff says. “When people are tightly wound, their bodies can become rigid, too. Laughing can help anyone let go.
“It’s also a gift to people who are hard on themselves. When you can laugh at yourself and circumstances, you’re accepting natural vulnerability. You lighten your daily load.”
The power of giggles
Children are the laughter masters, of course, spreading it wherever they go. Ask any grandparent.
“People crave laughter and fun all through their lives,” Jeff says, “and it helps older people stay in touch with their innocent, playful side. It may even prolong life.”
Sense of humor is one of the commonalities found among people who live to be centenarians. Plus, laughter helps people dealing with chronic illness or the painful treatments that can help them heal. It’s a release, too, for the people who work in hospitals and other emotionally weighty environments. Just bringing a smile to someone’s face can be healing and give hope.
For that matter, Jeff says, humor lightens any workplace. Consider the goofy videos and silly stories shared in the office. “The jokes we send, the cute puppies and kittens, warm people’s hearts and add joy and cohesion to a group. When people are happy at work, they tend to be more effective. There’s definitely less burnout.”
People who are special to you often share your sensibilities and sense of humor. It’s a free and limitless source of joy with healthy benefits for mind, body and spirit. So, what made you laugh today? Go tell someone. Now.
You’re always the right age to laugh and play, says Jeff Rossman. His 87-year-old father is the perfect example:
“Dad is part of a group of seniors who put on musical reviews every two months. They dress up and make scenery and have a ball. There’s a lot of laughter, which helps them stay healthy, physically and cognitively. Plus, we live in a culture of spectators. Being the one who sings or acts or makes people laugh is exciting!”
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